Last month the Geographical Society welcomed Garry Kaparov, Russian chess grandmaster, to the virtual stage to speak about his global life. Kasparov was World Chess Champion from 1984 until his retirement in 2005, and continues to commentate on the game itself as well as engaging in political activism.
In his youth, Mr Kasparov explained, he was one of the very few people from his home town in the USSR to have travelled to the West. He vividly recalls friends questioning him about Western customs and ways of life. Many of us were reminded that not too long ago, long-distance travel was not nearly as accessible as it is today, even in the midst of a pandemic!
In recent years, Mr Kasparov has enjoyed his work as a consultant for chess-themed TV shows and movies, most notably the Netflix hit series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’. He explained his influence on the direction of the production, ensuring that all of the chess scenes were accurate by reflecting the standard expected of professional players. As many of the virtual audience were aware of the central character of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, Mr Kasparov was unsurprisingly asked about gender equality in chess. His explanation that many chess players don’t see it as a male player verses a female opponent helped us to understand the alternative, and far more dramatic image, of two great minds battling it out on the board.